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Im a survivor
Annual event raises $80K
2 Relay for Life pic
Cancer survivor Gwen Hyde dances and enjoys the live music during Friday nights Relay for Life in Dawson County. The annual event raised $80,000 for the American Cancer Society. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson Community News

Gwen Hyde embraces the term survivor.

"I'm a survivor, and I thank God every day for that," she said. "I'm cancer free and boy am I proud of that."

Diagnosed with lymphoma in 2010 after finding growths on her neck, Hyde recently finished chemotherapy and celebrated with hundreds of other cancer survivors Friday night at Veterans Memorial Park.

"It means a lot to see all the people out ... and seeing all the survivors and knowing that there is a way to get rid of this," she said.

Relay for Life in Dawson County, an annual event that raises funds for the American Cancer Society, collected nearly $80,000 this year.

"We know we'll still take in some money after the event, so there's still a chance for us to reach our goal of $90,000," said Suzanne Hendricks, American Cancer Society community manager for Dawson and Forsyth counties.

"We can continue to take donations until August. We are very proud of the $80,000 we have raised, and we think the community should be as well."

Longtime supporter and volunteer Roger Slaton said Friday night's festivities were about the best he's seen.

"The weather has certainly cooperated which is good," he said. "The participation has been wonderful. Our survivors are the largest group we've had here walking, I believe. I'm blessed and glad to be here. It's been a wonderful night."

Dozens of team booths offered a variety of activities and entertainment for the entire family. They ranged from cake walks, sports contests and face painting to a water slide and a variety of food.

Sitting with her legs crossed in front of a teepee, Dawson County High School Interact member Selina LeMoon said the club participates in Relay for Life each year in honor of adviser Robin Jernigan Chapman.

"We started doing this so all the kids from the high school can come out to take part and try to support her and what she was going through even when she couldn't be with us last year," LeMoon said. "Now she's a survivor so we're ready to see everybody else be survivors as well."

The overnight event began with more than 130 cancer survivors taking a lap around the track.

Justin Power, who served as the event's co-chair, said the survivor lap was the high point of the night.

"It just touches you every year to see these survivors after everything they've gone through to take their walk around the track. That's what it's all about," he said.

Among the survivors was Rhonda Stone, who for the fourth consecutive year walked the entire 12 hours, and Kenny Stewart and Tori Overmyer.

"It's a great thing to see what we can do for Relay for Life and to see Kenny Stewart and Tori Overmyer, those two young folks, and all the people that have suffered with cancer here as survivors," Slaton said.